Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Programming Note

Both Matt and I are pretty busy this afternoon and, in the interest of full disclosure, won't have anything new posted until tomorrow morning. It doesn't happen too often around these parts, so we wanted to give you folks a heads up.

In the meantime, feel free to check out the slow motion train wreck that should have already been unfolding over at Deadspin involving Daulerio's threat to publish every tip about improper sexual relations concerning ESPN employees ever emailed to his tip line. And to think, none of this would have happened if Steve Phillips was a better talent evaluator.

That or take a look at this chart and jump to conclusions in regards to what it implies about Joe Girardi's managerial ability (via BBTF). Or check out Lisa Swan's takedown of Tom Verducci and try to explain how CC Sabathia was responsible for the Indians losing Games 6 & 7 of the ALCS to the Red Sox in '07 despite not actually pitching in them. Or try to figure out how on earth our buddy Craig got a freaking death threat over at NBC for talking about the Mariano Rivera incident yesterday. (Hint: You'll never figure the last one out.)

Okay, or just make fun of this whippersnapper who was photographed during Game 3.

Alright I gotta get outta here before I make fun of more Angels fans under the age of 10. Two in one day is probably enough. Catch you later on.

More Calls For Replay & Why It Won't Happen

Richard Sandomir of the New York Times took a break from mercilessly pounding on Chip Caray to call for instant replay following the two plays involving Nick Swisher in the fourth inning yesterday. The second play:
Then, with Swisher on third, Johnny Damon flied out to center field and Swisher tagged up, scoring what appeared to be the Yankees’ fourth run. The Angels appealed, and the third-base umpire Tim McClelland called Swisher out, negating the run. Again, Fox’s multiple replays showed that McClelland appeared to be wrong.
Yes, the split-screen replays that were shown indicated that Swish was on third base when the ball was caught, but how do we know they are accurate? Someone on FOX's production team had to cue those up and in the process, could align the two separate pieces of footage however they wanted. We never saw Hunter catch the ball and Swisher leave the base in the same camera shot and thus never had conclusive proof one way or another.

Sandomir should have probably saved his protestations about instant replay for what happened in the fifth inning with Mike Napoli, Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano. Kevin Kaduk from Big League Stew (somewhat hyperbolically) called it the "worst call of all-time" and used it as a justification for instituting replay as well:
Why McClelland possibly decided that Cano was safe despite not touching the bag until after being tagged is beyond this galaxy's rules of logic and it sent Angel Stadium into a bloodthirsty frenzy. There are simply no words for the ruling, other to say that one of the five other umpires should've offered his assistance, McClelland shouldn't ump another game in this series and that it's time for Bud Selig to stop being stubborn and expand the use of instant replay in baseball past disputed home run calls.
Our buddy Jason suggests that replay be used only during playoff games, solely at the request of the crew chief. It's a good suggestion, but how would that work in practice?

Would managers use arguments to influence the umps to look at the replay? Unless there was a rule preventing that I'm sure they would - to the detriment of the pace of play. Managers go out to argue all the time as it and there is almost no benefit to them doing so. If they were restricted from arguing, you can bet there would be ample barking from the dugout on any questionable play. The point is that it would never really be "only" up to the crew chief.

As mentioned before, there are practical problems with any sort of disputed play when runners are moving as well. If a ball is incorrectly ruled a catch when it should have been a hit, where do you put the runners? It's not as cut and dry as we'd like it to be.

I'm all for replay and think we could figure these issues out, but unfortunately I think Rob Neyer is right when he says that it's not happening as long as Bug Selig is around:
Bud Selig has been described as a revolutionary, but of course today's revolutionary is tomorrow's reactionary. Realignment and wild cards; interleague play; expansion; franchise movement; "this time it counts"; video review ... what do all these things have in common? All have happened on commissioner Selig's watch, and nearly all have not been revisited since, even in the face of obvious deficiencies. Do we really want to see the Royals playing the Pirates in June? Are all 30 franchises perfectly placed? Is 30 the perfect number of franchises? Is the All-Star Game the best way to determine the home team in the World Series.

Perhaps. Perhaps not. My point is that these discussions are essentially irrelevant as long as Bud Selig is commissioner. I promise you that the moment a new commissioner is in place, the offices at Major League Baseball and within the 30 franchises around the nation (plus Toronto) will be buzzing with talk about addressing these and other core issues. Today, though? The commissioner has done what he's wanted to do. Why do something else now?
Blown calls are maddening when you can see them played out in slow motion HD over and over again, then commented on endlessly the next day. Especially when idiots attribute the outcome of the game to them. The technology is available and the fans at home can clearly when an error has been made. Judging by the crowd reactions in the Big A last night, the fans in the ballpark could see the them too.

There's no good reason that there shouldn't be instant replay in baseball. But there is a reason. And that reason is Bud Selig.

The New A-Rod

Good morning, Fackers. How are we feeling today? Better than yesterday I would imagine. Not only did the Yanks win last night, but they did so in dominating fashion behind a powerful performance by CC Sabathia with a 9th inning offensive outburst for a metaphorical cherry on top.

As discussed in the recap, A-Rod continued his blistering postseason by churning the Yankees' offense (along with Melky Cabrera and Johnny Damon) to a 10-1 victory. During his typical three minute chat with the press following the game, he was asked if the hardest part of his his day has actually become explaining how he's performed so well on the field to the media. He responded:
No, I don't really talk much anymore, so I don't ever have to explain myself. And that's a good thing.
It certainly is a good thing. This change in media strategy has been a direct result of handing over the reigns to Yankee's media relations manager Jason Zillo. Instead of being gassed up by agencies like William Morris or douchebags like Guy Oseary, A-Rod has optimized his P.R. strategy for the baseball media. He doesn't try to bear his soul for other people anymore and vowed to refocus his efforts towards baseball and not becoming a global brand.

As beat writer Mark Feinsand recently said in an interview with Will Leitch:
It seems like his biggest troubles started when he started listening to people like Guy Oseary, who may know how to handle this stuff for the likes of Madonna, but has no clue what sports media is like. Lining up Alex to do a photo shoot where he kissed himself in a mirror is the perfect example. That stuff is edgy and perfect in the music/entertainment world, but this guy is a ballplayer.
It's worked wonders this year, because after the firestorm this offseason, he's been relatively invisible.

I guess it's only natural that people in the media would want to attribute his incredible postseason to his new media strategy. But my question to them would be, "Why didn't it show up during the regular season?" That's not to say Alex didn't have an excellent season - he did - it's just that it fit right in line with the other great ones he's had in the past. Why didn't his new P.R. plan lead to huge numbers then?

The reality is that people in the media are going to stories about the media. That fact that he has limited the access reporters have to him has probably taken some pressure off of him in that he no longer is trying to be something he's not. But Jason Zillo isn't taking any at bats for him. A-Rod is mashing this postseason because he's a historically great hitter and was going to have a massive run in October eventually. We've all seen him go through streaks like this at times, it just so happens that this one is occurring at exactly the right time.

What's really great about A-Rod not having to explain himself (as he said above) is that people probably wouldn't understand him anyway. He's a bit of an odd duck, as displayed by his newfound hobby of dropping in on live interviews.

Michael Kay and Ken Singleton were talking about the man himself after last night's game when he thought it would be amusing to give Michael Kay a drive by tap on the shoulder.

And from the clinching game over the Twins...

[Last image via 3:10 to Joba]

The good news is that you don't have to be a normal person to be awesome at baseball. Maybe we'd like the best players on the team to be guys you could imagine drinking a beer with but what we really want are dudes who bash clutch home runs and steal bases too. As long as they aren't somehow offensive to our sensibilities in the 30 second sound bytes we get from them, it's fine. If that means A-Rod has to keep some things behind the curtain, or in this case, the plastic tarp, please, by all means...

Yanks Desecrate Angels

It's tempting to say that CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez won last night's game on their own. Sure there were many guys who made contributions to the win, but A-Rod drove in more runs than CC allowed in 8 innings and although the game was much closer than the final score indicates, the Angels never led in this game and were never particularly close. The ALCS MVP award race is certainly heating up.

Sabathia had an absolutely beastly pitching performance. He was efficient, needing only 101 pitches to plow through 8 innings and only one of them - a homer to Kendry Morales - would he have wanted back. The big man pitched to weak contact all night, striking out 5 Angels and the Morales home run was the only hit for extra bases. He did it all three days rest in a game that Yankees didn't want to lean to heavily on their bullpen - a huge and timely contribution.

A-Rod smacked a single and stole a base in the 4th inning, scoring from third on a close, hard collision at the plate after an infield bouncer by Robinson Cano. Mike Napoli's foot knocked him pretty squarely in the chest but he slid in under the tag and popped right up, scoring the Yankees first run. Alex then cranked a two run homer in his next at bat in the 5th, putting the Yanks up 5-0. Adding on to an already massive night, he doubled in the 9th inning, tagged up and took off for third, putting the pressure on Bobby Abreu. The throw was close to being there on time, but it bounced away from Chone Figgins into the stands, allowing A-Rod to score. For those scoring at home, A-Rod either drove in or scored 4 of the Yankees' runs and played a big role in the ones he scored. He forced the action all night and took over the game offensively, as much as you could expect one player in a 9 man line up to.

Both were one-man wrecking crews who, along with Melky Cabrera in particular, combined to smash the Angels apart in a 10-1 victory. Melky broke out of a postseason slide with a move out of Derek Jeter's playbook, a well-placed push bunt single towards first base. It worked like a charm, busting the slump with a real hit his next time up. He came to the plate with the bases loaded in the 4th inning and knocked in two big runs with a broken bat single. Melky later drew a walk against Ervin Santana before being driven home on a Johnny Damon homer and knocked in two more runs with a double in the 9th inning.

Melky silenced his doubters, namely the one moron who said he should never put on a Yankee uniform again and the other one who told him to go to hell, in a big way last night just like CC and A-Rod continued to do.

There's a sort of beautiful symmetry that the two guys on the Yankees who were perceived as the biggest choke artists coming into this postseason have not only made people think twice about their individual mettle but also the concept of clutch in general. Hey, maybe it's not indicative of a flaw in someone's mental make up if they have some bad postseason performances, you know? Guys can play well or not during October for extended stretches and it's not an indication of some asset or defect in their make up.

Aside from A-Rod and CC, people are sure to talk about the curious calls that once again plagued this game. Third base umpire Tim McClelland was the one at the center of the controversy this time. (Conspicuously) soon after Nick Swisher should have been picked off second base, McClelland said that he left third too early on a sacrifice fly by Johnny Damon. When the Angels checked, Swish was out, completing an inning-ending double play. The replay showed that Swish didn't leave early, but it was of the split screen variety so it was at the whim of whoever put it together to line the two clips up perfectly.

More egregiously, McClelland missed a double play that the Angels should have had in the fifth inning. Jorge Posada was caught in a run down between third and home while Cano was advancing from second. Both were off the bag when Mike Napoli tagged them, but only Posada was called out. If Cano was being forced to the base (which he wasn't) it would have been the right call. If Cano had put his foot on the bag, it would have been the right call.

Alas, it was not, and McClelland as the crew cheif addressed the media after the game to explain his mistakes. He admitted he was wrong on the Posada-Cano call but understandably didn't trust the replay on Swisher's tag-up. Neither of the errors led to any Yankee runs.

Predictably, the grounded rationalists over at Halos Heaven are taking this well. Just kidding, they've uncovered a vast conspiracy between FOX, the MLB and the umpires to get the Yankees into the World Series because they draw bigger ratings.

Speaking of the MLB and FOX being in cahoots, we've got a non-travel off day to sit through because the league has to milk the TV ratings for as much as they are worth and can't have too many weekday games starting at 4:00. As such, we'll have to wait until Thursday to find out when the next game at Yankee Stadium will be played.